• Olivia Bierman
  • Tanja Kuchenmuller
  • Ulysses Panisset
  • Marcus Leys
Background: Policy dialogues (PDs) enable interactions between policy-makers, researchers and other stakeholders – one of the factors associated with evidence-informed policy-making (EIP). Studies have acknowledged that facilitators play a key role for the success of a PD. However, there is little evidence on what defines a PD’s success from a process and impact perspective, the characteristics of a good facilitator, and how facilitators play their role towards a successful PD. The Evidence-informed Policy Network (EVIPNet), a WHO initiative that started in 2005 to build knowledge translation (KT) capacity of Member States, implements PDs as important instruments in KT.

Methods: To better understand facilitators’ perceived role and influence on a PD’s process and impact, an exploratory study design based on semi-structured interviews with 10 key-informants from Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, North and South America was conducted. Participants were purposefully sampled based on their experience in facilitating or observing PDs. Thematic analysis was applied using a constant comparative method.

Results: Study participants stated a successful PD would rely on a structured process (e.g. being informed by a pre-circulated evidence brief) – employed to catalyze impact (e.g. improved health, policy implementation and changed mind-sets).
Facilitators’ contributions to a PD’s success were said to materialize in terms of facilitation skills, e.g. helping stakeholders to get to an informed judgment and to formulate tangible next steps by synthesizing discussions well. At the same time, facilitators contribute characteristics such as a) knowledge, e.g. about health system dynamics to be able to give appropriate prompts during the PD, b) attitudes, such as valuing the PD process apart from outcomes and c) attributes, e.g. credibility, leading to stakeholders’ increased commitment. Facilitators’ involvement in preparatory activities and follow-up actions – in particular in terms of engaging with stakeholders – were clearly said to be equally paramount for a PD’s success.
Study participants described numerous challenges they had faced when facilitating/observing PDs and shared how these had been overcome. Many challenges can be anticipated and prepared for to certain extents, e.g. by identifying appropriate stakeholders and analyzing them to anticipate behavior or potential conflicts.

Conclusions: PD facilitators play a crucial role in EIP processes. Facilitators “make or break” a PD’s success. Not only are their skills, attitudes and attributes important, but their involvement in the PD’s preparatory and follow-up activities. Next to formal trainings, participating in and co-facilitating PDs is considered an important strategy to improve facilitator’s performance and hence influence on a PD’s success.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal Summit of health services research
Publisherhealth systems global
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventGlobal Symposium on Health Systems Research: : Resilient and responsive health systems for a changing world - Vancouver, Canada
Duration: 14 Nov 201618 Nov 2016


ConferenceGlobal Symposium on Health Systems Research:
Internet address

ID: 25599253